Some of you felt the 4.5 magnitude earthquake this month. The experts said the epicenter was Hutchinson; they were wrong. It was right here when my thirty-something daughter Michelle made me cry, again.
She’s been making me cry for a long time, mostly good tears. Years ago, I cried when I felt like I was losing connection with my daughter. She was ten years old, and she was no longer interested in outdoor adventures like her younger brothers. Family camping involved bugs, so she was bugging out. How could we connect if we couldn’t camp?
I watched her and learned. She loved music. A father’s love for his daughter will take him to new places. I went where no man had gone before, piano lessons with my daughter. We would drive together to the same teacher, study the same book, talk about the same music. It would be grand. Life was good again until our teacher explained we would also do the same public recitals. Well, how hard could it be?
It was hard. The unexpected appearance of an old acquaintance made it harder. We played to an audience of parents at a local church. Each child played their little ditty, and the audience would clap and cheer like they just heard a maestro. Then it was my turn. I sat down at the piano and glanced at the folks in the audience. What? Wait? Who was that man in the audience with the white shoes? Dean Spring, with his signature white shoes, was in the audience. You see I am a lawyer. Raymond Spring, the Dean of Students when I attended Washburn School of Law, was at the recital to see his grandaughter.
I froze. “It starts with the D note,” the piano teacher whispered. It didn’t matter what note my ditty started with; I could no longer see the keyboard. I was no longer there. I was back in Criminal Law class 101, and Dean Spring had just walked into the room and took his place behind the podium. I was a freshman law student, and this was the first semester. We knew the teaching method included class recital and questioning by the law professor. The students grew hush. He glanced around. I held my breath. Who would he call on?“Mr. Patton.” My heart stopped as he finished, “Please brief Miranda vs. Arizona.” I sat there like a deer in headlights, not because of the complexity of the case. I read it the night before, and I had prepared. It was not that I would have to talk in front of the class. I loved public speaking. It was not just that Dean Spring was a law professor and dean of the Law School. It was as if at that moment he represented the total of all of western jurisprudence. I was dumbstruck in awe. At that moment, the knowledge that the fate of my future career in the law, not to mention my grade, may depend on the next few words to come out of my mouth filled me with terror. What would become of me?
My daughter made it through the recital; I did not. I made it through law school, but my daughter was never interested until now. This past year Michelle watched her Mom, my wife and law Partner Cindy, going into court. Cindy was a hero battling on behalf of a defenseless single mom against an unfaithful, abusive, narcissistic SOB. It was a normal day at the office for Cindy. For Michelle, it was inspiring. The day Michelle said, “Dad, I never wanted to be a lawyer, but now, I have never wanted anything more,” was the day she made me cry, again. The earth moved — 4.5 on the Richter scale.